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White vans lead the economic recovery

Champion: Toyota's HiAce has long led the van market, but is coming under pressure from Hyundai's iLoad.

Business buyers take the accelerated depreciation bait

General News logo22 Jun 2009

IMPROVING business confidence and two big tax concessions from the federal government have helped to sharply reverse a seven-month slump in sales of 'white' commercial vans.

Sales spiked in March and May after announcements of new accelerated depreciation tax rules for small businesses buying new capital equipment.

The rises lifted most vans back to the sales levels enjoyed last September, and set the scene for another bumper June.

The commercial vehicle fleet has long been the rock on which Toyota’s market leadership has been built, and the white van sector is a prime example. It is a case of HiAce first, daylight second, although there are some interesting developments in the dust kicked up by the speeding Toyota.

Toyota Australia spokesman Mike Breen said big business had bounced back from the economic knee-jerk reactions of late last year, adding that the small business sector had also lifted significantly.

80 center image Left: Hyundai iLoad. Below: Citroen Berlingo.

He said the big jump in HiAce sales in March reflected a heavy Toyota marketing push, which built on the improvement seen in February.

Sales to private buyers (that is, to sole-trader businesses) almost doubled in March compared with the average for the previous three months.

“Also, small fleet volume more than doubled from the previous three-month average mainly due to the investment allowance generating huge showroom traffic,” Mr Breen said.

However, while the jump in HiAce sales in May was impressive, one van eclipsed it. Sales of Hyundai’s iLoad more than doubled from a depressed 147 in April to 321 in May, growing faster than the HiAce both in percentage and absolute terms.

The iLoad had been muddling along before that, swapping second, third and fourth places with the Ford Transit and Mitsubishi Express. It is too early to judge yet if iLoad has moved clear into second place.

Like the HiAce, the iLoad gives a choice between diesel and petrol engines, while the Transit (all diesel) and the Express (petrol only) do not.

The Korean machine has made a strong impression since it was introduced in March 2008, and, like the Transit, may have been constrained by limited supply.

When it landed in Australia, Hyundai said the iLoad had been benchmarked against the HiAce, the Transit and the Express. Its recent rise into second place suggests that the company did a good job.

Another trend in the van market is the rise of the small van, especially vans of European origin. Volkswagen’s Caddy – admittedly available in Caddy Maxi form, too – worked its way up to fifth place by May to sit behind the four larger models mentioned above.

Holden’s Combo, based on the Opel Corsa, has been on a steady upward trend since bottoming in December and has been outpointing a fleet of new entrants from its usual European rivals, until now.

The big threat appears to be Renault’s Kangoo, which quadrupled sales in May to 110 to pip the Combo, even though the Holden also jumped strongly.

In addition, the pressure has increased since Peugeot recently entered the fray with its Partner, joining its twin-under-the-skin, the Citroen Berlingo.

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